To raise awareness of job opportunities for Chicago-area displaced workers in the midst of the deep recession, a consortium of nine regional workforce boards has released a study that emphasizes the continuing demand for middle-skill workers. “While policymakers continue to focus on the need for high-skill workers,” the report states, “the need for middle-skill workers must also be addressed through workforce development policies and initiatives.”
According to the study completed by the Workforce Boards of Metropolitan Chicago, 43% of the region’s jobs are of the middle-skill variety — that is, jobs that require some post-high school training or education but less than a bachelor’s degree. The report used EMSI data to compile regional labor market figures, education and training requirements, and anticipated earnings for a broad range of middle-skill occupations. “We really do credit EMSI in being able to get that data at a regional level to be able to produce the study,” says Jennifer Stasch, Executive Director for the Workforce Board of Northern Cook County and a member of the regional consortium.
The metro Chicago report comes in response to a Skills2Compete study, “America’s Forgotten Middle-Skill Jobs,” and the Obama administration’s challenge for every American to commit to at least one of year postsecondary education or training. It highlights EMSI projections that estimate 8% growth for middle-skill jobs from 2009-2014 in the metro Chicago area. Further, 41% of all new jobs in the region are projected to be middle-skill.
Although the highest demand among associate degree-holders is in the registered nursing field, one goal of the report is to show the variety of sectors outside of health care that need middle-skill labor. The highest-earning jobs include Correctional officers and jailers ($39 per hour) and Operating engineers ($35 an hour). Both occupations require, on average, moderate-term on-the-job training.
Observes Stasch, “We believe middle-skill jobs are the jobs that the workforce system, specifically WIA, is in position to support and train for in a relatively short amount of time. So we thought it was important to share that information with our workforce system.”